It’s been said time and again that when companies plan their corporate responsibility strategies, the place to start is with their core competencies, as well as their products and services.
That may be true; but as they say in real estate, “location, location, location” can help on this front, too. Or at least that is in the case of
Electrify America, a coalition that says it is investing at least $2 billion over the next 10 years in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure, electric vehicle education and increased access to EVs. The organization announced yesterday that it will install the electric vehicle chargers at these Walmart locations across 34 states by June 2019. The results will double the number of EV charging stations at Walmart stores across the U.S.
To the most passionate advocates of EVs, this EV charging network may be a drop in the bucket considering Walmart’s reach – after all, the retailer boasts over 5,000 locations across the U.S. alone.
Nevertheless, this announcement sends three important signals, all of which are in alignment with Electrify America’s goals and that of its allies.
First, the Walmart partnership demonstrates that the business community has become more confident in the future of EVs – important considering the “brick wall” into which Tesla, the most visible electric car manufacturer worldwide, has slammed over the past several weeks. Whether Tesla recovers or not, automakers worldwide are still betting more chips on EVs, so it behooves retailers such as Walmart to devote a few spaces to these chargers.
Second, this investment shows that sooner rather than later, EVs will become far more accessible. Sure, other retailers are quick to tout their EV charging street cred, but they are usually companies like Whole Foods (too expensive and hipster for many families) or Costco (exclusive in its own right as it charges customers an annual membership). EVs manufacturers need to prove to the masses that they are just not for the Silicon Valley or early adopter types. Breaking down the accessibility and exclusivity barriers will help burnish EVs’ reputation as a vehicle of choice suitable for anyone. Of course, improvements in battery technology and the correlating drop in price are critical to the long-term success of EVs – but showing that they can be for the everyday man and woman means these cars need to start rolling up in places like Wamart.
Finally, consumers need to see evidence that EV technology, from these cars’ design and performance, to the convenience of these charging stations, is rapidly changing – and for the better. To that end, Electrify America claims that these charging systems to be located at Walmart stores will offer what it says are “the first-ever certified cooled-cable 150 to 350 kilowatt (kW) DC Fast Chargers.”
These vehicle chargers, says Electrify America, will deliver energy for up to 20 miles of range per minute, which is seven times faster than most current 50kW DC chargers.
“Along with providing our customers with an enhanced shopping experience through added convenience, this initiative also allows us to contribute to the expansion of our nation’s EV charging station infrastructure,” said Mark Vanderhelm, Vice President of Energy for Walmart, in a public statement. “Providing this service is the right thing to do for our customers, our business, and the environment.”
We don’t know if these EV charging stations will provide any “enhanced shopping experience.” But what we do know is that EVs are fast becoming attainable, not just aspirational – and yesterday’s move by Walmart is a notable step in that direction.
Image credit: Electrify America
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.